SGML: Memory of Yuri Rubinsky (1952-1996)

SGML: Memory of Yuri Rubinsky (1952-1996)

Path: msunews!!!!!!!!!!scolborn
From: (Greg Ioannou)
Newsgroups: comp.text.sgml
Subject: Re: Yuri Rubinsky (1952-1996)
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 96 19:34:31 GMT
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In article <>, (Murray Maloney) wrote:
>We have made arrangements with Erik Naggum to use comp.text.sgml
>as a medium for an "electronic wake" where anyone can send
>their comments and eulogies.  Please feel free to post your
>own comments to that newsgroup.  Erik will be collecting
>all of the messages that come in and we will arrange for
>a suitable tribute to Yuri at a later date.
I'd originally posted this in the copyediting list:

One of the world's unlikeliest copy editors died on the weekend. I've been  
thinking about Yuri the last few days -- an exercise guaranteed to make you  
feel inadequate. I thought I'd post this to the Copyediting list for the  
benefit of people in publishing whose lives had been changed by him who might  
not have heard the news.

I've appended the obituary circulated by SoftQuad, the company he founded. It  
omits a few details that are relevant to our trade. For instance, in the late  
1970s, as a student in his twenties frustrated with his inability to find any  
formal training in editing, he spearheaded the formation of the Banff  
Publishing Workshop, which opened in 1980. Banff remains one of the two most  
prestigious publishing programs in North America.

As he flitted around the edges of copy editing in the late 1970s and early  
1980s (while he was taking a degree in architecture?!), I remember him taking  
us to task at FEAC (Freelance Editors' Association of Canada) meetings for not  
becoming computer literate. He couldn't understand why we still wanted to work  
on paper when word processors (remember Kaypro?) were becoming available.  

He gave a "technology and editors" seminar for FEAC around 1981 that left us  
totally befuddled. While the rest of us were debating whether we should start  
using those new-fangled Post-It Notes, he was trying to get us interested in  
the first tentative beginnings of SGML.

He understandably grew a bit restless with trying to drag us into the future  
with him, and went on to work with the people at tiny Coach House Press, who  
wanted to know how they could use the same computer files to produce  
hard-cover and paperback versions of books, without having to totally reformat  
everything. In the mid 1970s, he (along with Stan Bevington of Coach House and  
two others) formed SoftQuad, which was intended to produce software to do just  

Inadvertently (or maybe Yuri saw it all along?), they helped produce software  
that makes Web browsers possible.

The above is written from fuzzy fifteen-year-old memories. The brief obituary  
I've reproduced below, from SoftQuad, is presumably better researched!

                        YURI RUBINSKY
>Canada lost a true Renaissance Man, on Sunday, January 21st.
>Yuri Rubinsky, born in Tripoli, Lebanon on August 2, 1952, died suddenly.
>He graduated as an Architect from the University of Toronto in 1979, but
>his accomplishments centered in three main areas: software, publishing and
>Yuri was a founder and President of SoftQuad Inc, and developed
>software for the Internet such as HoTMetaL, MetalWorks and Author/Editor.
>He was also Chairman, SGML Open Consortium and influential member of many
>Internet and World Wide Web Standards and Technical organizations.
>He was also known around the world for his dedication and innovation in
>developing software for the visually impaired.
>Yuri was Founding Co-Director of the Banff Publishing Workshop and
>actively promoted the cause of publishers and writers in Canada. He also
>founded, created and edited both Yorker Magazine, (1985-86) and Not The
>Globe and Mail (1984) and founded Invisible Books in 1979.
>His greatest achievements were as a writer: co-author of Christopher
>Columbus Answers All Charges, 1993;   The Wankers' Guide to Canada, 1986;
>A History of The End of The World, 1982.  Editor of The SGML Primer, 1991
>and The SGML Handbook, 1990.  Yuri was also co-author and producer of SGML:
>The Movie, 1990, and Invisible Cities, the play, in 1981. Recently Yuri was
>finishing two books on SGML and the Internet, as well as an historical
>comedy on Vergil, Mesmer and Neil Armstrong.
>Yuri leaves his greatest admirer and supporter, Holley, his wife, a poet and
>editor; her daughter, Robin;  his parents, Andre and Anna, a loving sister
>Katherine, her husband John, and Jamie and Christopher, their children.
>He was a man who knew what it meant to be first, and always strove to be
>first in everything he did.
>Memorial Service at Deer Park United Church, Saturday,  January 27th, 2 pm.
>Donations In Memoriam to The War Amps of Canada.
>[For those of you in range, see also today's Globe and Mail, page C3,
> or probably tomorrow's Toronto Star. --msb]